Total Eclipse

Total Eclipse is an intelligent look at the relationship between Rimbaud and Verlaine and shows considerable insight into the bourgeois and artistic societies of the period as well as a moving understanding of homosexuality.

Christopher Hampton was only 22 when he wrote this play. He studied Rimbaud’s work at Oxford. Hampton became involved in the theatre while at that University where OUDS performed his play When Did You Last See My Mother?, about adolescent homosexuality, reflecting his own experiences at Lancing College. He is best known for his play based on the novel Les Liaisons dangereuses and the awarded film version Dangerous Liaisons (1988) and also more recently for writing the nominated screenplay for the film adaptation of Ian McEwan‘s Atonement.

 

 

Long before there were rock stars, there was rock star attitude, as displayed with spectacular insolence by the teen-age French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Rimbaud’s long shadow reaches not only into academe, where the writing he did before abandoning poetry at 20 is still much admired, but also into popular culture, where Bob Dylan, Jim Morrison or Patti Smith would not have been possible without him.

Total Eclipse is a 1995 film directed by Agnieszka Holland, based on a 1967 play by Christopher Hampton, who also wrote the screenplay. Based on letters and poems, it presents a historically accurate account of the passionate and violent relationship between the two 19th century French poets Paul Verlaine (David Thewlis) and Arthur Rimbaud (Leonardo DiCaprio), at a time of soaring creativity for both of them.

River Phoenix was originally attached to the project, but the part of Rimbaud went to Leonardo DiCaprio after Phoenix’s death. And John Malkovich was initially attached to play Verlaine, but pulled out. This movie has Leonardo Dicaprio’s first onscreen kiss (with costar David Thewlis).

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Isn’t It a Pity

 
 

Isn’t It a Pity is a song by English musician George Harrison from his 1970 solo album All Things Must Pass. It appears in two variations there: one the well-known, seven-minute version; the other a reprise, titled Isn’t It a Pity (Version Two). Harrison wrote the song in 1966, but it was rejected for inclusion on releases by The Beatles. In many countries around the world, the song was also issued on a double A-side single with My Sweet Lord.

An anthemic ballad and one of Harrison’s most celebrated compositions, Isn’t It a Pity has been described as the emotional and musical centrepiece of All Things Must Pass and “a poignant reflection on The Beatles’ coarse ending”. Co-produced by Phil Spector, the recording employs multiple keyboard players, rhythm guitarists and percussionists, as well as orchestration by arranger John Barham. In its extended fadeout, the song references the closing refrain of the Beatles’ 1968 hit Hey Jude. Other musicians on the recording include Ringo Starr, Billy Preston, Gary Wright and the band Badfinger, while the reprise version features Eric Clapton on lead guitar.

While no longer the “really tight” social unit they had been throughout the chaos of Beatlemania – or the “four-headed monster”, as Mick Jagger famously called them – the individual Beatles were still bonded by genuine friendship during their final, troubled years as a band, even if it was now more of a case of being locked together at a deep psychological level after such a sustained period of heightened experience. Eric Clapton has described this bond as being just like that of a typical family, “with all the difficulties that entails”. When the band finally split, in April 1970 – a “terrible surprise” for the outside world, in the words of author Mark Hertsgaard, “like the sudden death of a beloved young uncle” – even the traditionally most disillusioned Beatle, George Harrison, suffered a mild bereavement.

Art of Dying

Psychedelic portrait of George Harrison. Richard Avedon, 1967

 

“There’ll come a time when all of us must leave here
Then nothing sister Mary can do
Will keep me here with you
As nothing in this life that I’ve been trying
Could equal or surpass the art of dying
Do you believe me?

There’ll come a time when all your hopes are fading
When things that seemed so very plain
Become an awful pain
Searching for the truth among the lying
And answered when you’ve learned the art of dying

But you’re still with me
But if you want it
Then you must find it
But when you have it
There’ll be no need for it

There’ll come a time when most of us return here
Brought back by our desire to be
A perfect entity
Living through a million years of crying
Until you’ve realized the Art of Dying
Do you believe me?”

 

Art of Dying is a song by English musician George Harrison, released on his 1970 triple album All Things Must Pass. It was written in 1966–67 when Harrison first became immersed in Hindu spirituality, and its subject matter is reincarnation – the “art” in question being the need to avoid rebirth, by limiting actions and thoughts whose consequences lead to one’s soul returning in another, earthbound life form. The song was co-produced by Phil Spector and features a hard-charging rock arrangement that has been described as “proto-disco”. The backing musicians include Eric Clapton and the rest of the latter’s short-lived band Derek and the Dominos, as well as Gary Wright, Billy Preston and a teenage Phil Collins playing the congas.

For the last 30 or more years of his life, George Harrison repeatedly identified his first experience of taking the hallucinogenic drug LSD, with John Lennon and their wives, as being responsible for his interest in spirituality and Hinduism. The “trip” occurred by accident in February 1965, and he later recalled a thought coming to his mind during the experience: “‘Yogis of the Himalayas.’ I don’t know why … It was like somebody was whispering to me: ‘Yogis of the Himalayas.'” But it was a visit in August 1967 to the epicentre of hippie conterculturalism, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, that then persuaded him to abandon LSD and pursue a spiritual path through meditation.

The mention of “Sister Mary” refers to the Catholic faith in which Harrison had been brought up as a child. Speaking to author Peter Doggett, Harrison’s sister Louise qualified his embracing of Hinduism with regard to his upbringing: “Our family were Catholics, but we always had a global outlook. We were spiritual, not religious as such. George didn’t change as a person after he went to India [in 1966] …”

Rather than Sister Mary, Harrison’s original lyric named “Mr Epstein” – the Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. Given this reference to Epstein, author Bruce Spizer has speculated that Harrison was “contemplating life after the Beatles” as early as mid 1966, since “most of the song’s original verses recognize that even Mr. Epstein won’t be able to keep the group together or help out when it’s over …”

As Harrison explains in his autobiography, I, Me, Mine, in most cases one’s soul does not in fact “leave here” after death, due to the karmic debt, or “load”, accrued through actions and thoughts carried out in one’s lifetime

The mention of “a million years of crying” is a reference to the endless cycle of rebirth associated with reincarnation, where the soul repeatedly fails to leave the material world and attain nirvana, otherwise known as moksha.

Since Harrison’s death in November 2001, the lyrics of Art of Dying have been much quoted as a comment on the nature of human existence.

Hommage to Paul Cézanne

Charles Wright (b. 1935) poses in his study

 
 

At night, in the fish-light of the moon, the dead wear our white shirts
To stay warm, and litter the fields.
We pick them up in the mornings, dewy pieces of paper and scraps of cloth.
Like us, they refract themselves. Like us,
They keep on saying the same thing, trying to get it right.
Like us, the water unsettles their names.

Sometimes they lie like leaves in their little arks, and curl up at the edges.
Sometimes they come inside, wearing our shoes, and walk
From mirror to mirror.
Or lie in our beds with their gloves off
And touch our bodies. Or talk
In a corner. Or wait like envelopes on a desk.

They reach up from the ice plant.
They shuttle their messengers through the oat grass.
Their answers rise like rust on the stalks and the spidery leaves.

We rub them off our hands.

Each year the dead grow less dead, and nudge
Close to the surface of all things.
They start to remember the silence that brought them here.
They start to recount the gain in their soiled hands.

Their glasses let loose, and grain by grain return to the riverbank.
They point to their favorite words
Growing around them, revealed as themselves for the first time:
They stand close to the meanings and take them in.

They stand there, vague and without pain,
Under their fingernails an unreturnable dirt.
They stand there and it comes back,
The music of everything, syllable after syllable

Out of the burning chair, out of the beings of light.
It all comes back.
And what they repeat to themselves, and what they repeat to themselves,
Is the song that our fathers sing.

In steeps and sighs,
The ocean explains itself, backing and filling
What spaces it can’t avoid, spaces
In black shoes, their hands clasped, their eyes teared at the edges:
We watch from the high hillside,
The ocean swelling and flattening, the spaces
Filling and emptying, horizon blade
Flashing the early afternoon sun.

The dead are constant in
The white lips of the sea.
Over and over, through clenched teeth, they tell
Their story, the story each knows by heart:
Remember me, speak my name.
When the moon tugs at my sleeve,
When the body of water is raised and becomes the body of light,
Remember me, speak my name.

The dead are a cadmium blue.
We spread them with palette knives in broad blocks and planes.

We layer them stroke by stroke
In steps and ascending mass, in verticals raised from the earth.

We choose, and layer them in,
Blue and a blue and a breath,

Circle and smudge, cross-beak and buttonhook,
We layer them in. We squint hard and terrace them line by line.

And so we are come between, and cry out,
And stare up at the sky and its cloudy panes,

And finger the cypress twists.
The dead understand all this, and keep in touch,

Rustle of hand to hand in the lemon trees,
Flags, and the great sifts of anger

To powder and nothingness.
The dead are a cadmium blue, and they understand.

The dead are with us to stay.
Their shadows rock in the back yard, so pure, so black,
Between the oak tree and the porch.

Over our heads they’re huge in the night sky.
In the tall grass they turn with the zodiac.
Under our feet they’re white with the snows of a thousand years.

They carry their colored threads and baskets of silk
To mend our clothes, making us look right,
Altering, stitching, replacing a button, closing a tear.
They lie like tucks in our loose sleeves, they hold us together.

They blow the last leaves away.
They slide like an overflow into the river of heaven.
Everywhere they are flying.

The dead are a sleight and a fade
We fall for, like flowering plums, like white coins from the rain.
Their sighs are gaps in the wind.

The dead are waiting for us in our rooms,
Little globules of light
In one of the far corners, and close to the ceiling, hovering, thinking our thoughts.

Often they’ll reach a hand down,
Or offer a word, and ease us out of our bodies to join in theirs.
We look back at our other selves on the bed.

We look back and we don’t care and we go.

And thus we become what we’ve longed for,
past tense and otherwise,
A BB, a disc of light,
song without words.
And refer to ourselves
In the third person, seeing that other arm
Still raised from the bed, fingers like licks and flames in the boned air.

Only to hear that it’s not time.
Only to hear that we must re-enter and lie still, our arms at rest at our sides,
The voices rising around us like mist

And dew, it’s all right, it’s all right, it’s all right …

The dead fall around us like rain.
They come down from the last clouds in the late light for the last time
And slip through the sod.

They lean uphill and face north.
Like grass,
They bend toward the sea, they break toward the setting sun.

We filigree and we baste.
But what do the dead care for the fringe of words,
Safe in their suits of milk?
What do they care for the honk and flash of a new style?

And who is to say if the inch of snow in our hearts
Is rectitude enough?

Spring picks the locks of the wind.
High in the night sky the mirror is hauled up and unsheeted.
In it we twist like stars.

Ahead of us, through the dark, the dead
Are beating their drums and stirring the yellow leaves.

We’re out here, our feet in the soil, our heads craned up at the sky,
The stars streaming and bursting behind the trees.

At dawn, as the clouds gather, we watch
The mountain glide from the east on the valley floor,
Coming together in starts and jumps.
Behind their curtain, the bears
Amble across the heavens, serene as black coffee …

Whose unction can intercede for the dead?
Whose tongue is toothless enough to speak their piece?

What we are given in dreams we write as blue paint,
Or messages to the clouds.
At evening we wait for the rain to fall and sky to clear.
Our words are words for the clay, uttered in undertones,
Our gestures salve for the wind.

We sit out on the earth and stretch our limbs,
Hoarding the little mounds of sorrow laid up in our hearts.

Charles Wright

The New Yorker, December 19, 1977

Mine, In a Way

“The sunflower is mine, in a way.”

Vincent Van Gogh

 

Offering to Flora, Juan van der Hamne, 1627

 

The Sunflower. Engraving from Erasmus Francisci’s Ost- und West-Indischer wie auch Sinesischer Lust- und Stats-Garten in drey Haupt-Theile unterschieden.., 1668

 

Peacocks, Melchior d’ Hondecoeter, 1683

 

Small butterfly and sunflower, Ohara Koson, no date

 

Studio of Sir Kenelm Digby, Anthony van Dyck, c. 1630

 

Selbstporträt mit Sonnenblume (Self Portrait With a Sunflower), Anthony van Dyck, after 1633

 

Marquise Athenais de Montespan or Montespan en déshabillée, school of Pierre Mignard, c. 1670

 

Portrait of Elizabeth Claypole, Jacob Huysmans, 1680

 

Misses Wilson, James Sant, 1875

 

Bouquet of Sunflowers, Claude Monet, 1881

 

Tournesols, Claude Monet, 1881

 

Clytie, Evelyn De Morgan, 1887

 

Vase of Sunflowers, Henri Matisse, 1898

 

The Four Seasons (Summer), Alphons Mucha, 1898

 

Brita,a Cat and a Sandwich, Carl Larsson, 1898

 

Hide and Seek, Carl Larsson, c. 1900

 

Eighteen Years Old!, Carl Larsson, 1902

 

Farm Garden with Sunflowers, Gustave Klimt, 1905

 

Sonnenblume (Girasol), Gustav Klimt, 1907

 

Sunflowers, Piet Mondrian, 1907

 

Dying Sunflower, Piet Mondrian, c. 1908

 

Sonnenblume, Egon Schiele, 1909

 

Welke Sonnenblume, Egon Schiele, 1912

 

Welke Sonnenblumen, Egon Schiele, 1914

 

Sonnenblumen, Egon Schiele, 1916

 

Versunkene Landschaft, Paul Klee, 1918

 

Mature Sunflowers, Emil Nolde, 1932

 

Sunflowers, Sir Jacob Epstein, c. 1936

 

A Sunflower from Maggie, Georgia O’Keeffe, 1937

 

Girasoles (Sunflowers) Diego Rivera, 1943

 

Sunflowers at Choisel, Georges Braque, 1946

 

Composition with Sunflowers, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, 1949

 

Die Sonnenblumen und die (The Sunflowers and The City), Friedensreich Hundertwasser, 1949

 

Le Tournesol, Fernand Léger, 1953

 

Cover for International Textiles, René Gruau, 1955

 

Sunflowers for Jonathan, David Hockney, 1995

 

The Orders of the Night (Die Orden der Nacht), Anselm Kiefer, 1996

 

Untitled (Sunflowers), Glenn Goldberg, 1999

 

Hommage a van Gogh, Friedensreich Hundertwasser, c. 1998

 

Sunflower in Grey and Green no.1, Jimmy Wright, 2008

Lovers Throughout the Centuries

“My main inspiration for this film, which isn’t referred to anywhere, is Mark Twain’s The Diaries of Adam and Eve. I’m a big Mark Twain fan, but that’s maybe my favorite book of his. ”

Jim Jarmusch

 
 

 
 

Only Lovers Left Alive is a 2013 British-German vampire film written and directed by Jim Jarmusch, and starring Tom Hiddleston, Tilda Swinton, Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt, and Jeffrey Wright.

Married for centuries and now living half a world apart, two vampires wake as the sun goes down. The only solace he finds from miserable modernity is Eve. Lovers throughout the centuries, the two would be soul mates – if only they had souls. Adam sits holding a lute, in his cluttered Detroit Victorian , as Eve wakes up in her bedroom in Tangier, surrounded by books. Acting like addicts, blood for them is a drug that provides a wave of euphoria as well as sustenance. They are dependent on local suppliers of the “good stuff”, fearing contamination from blood poisoned by the degradation of the environment. Adam visits a local blood bank in the dead of night, masquerading as “Dr. Faust”, paying “Dr. Watson” for his coveted O negative, while Eve relies on their old friend Christopher Marlowe, who faked his death in 1593 and lives under the protection of a local man.

After influencing the careers of countless famous musicians and scientists, Adam has become withdrawn and suicidal. His desire to connect through his music is at odds with the danger of recognition as well as his contempt for the corrupt and foolish humans he refers to as “zombies”. He spends his days recording his compositions on outdated studio equipment and lamenting the state of the modern world whilst collecting vintage instruments. He pays Ian, a naive human “rock and roll kid”, to procure vintage guitars and other assorted curiosities, including a custom-made bullet with a brass casing and a wooden tip. Having acquired substantial scientific knowledge over the years, the vampire has managed to build contraptions to power both his home and vintage sports car with technology originally pioneered by Nikola Tesla.

The film is one of several Jarmusch productions, alongside films such as Night on Earth, in which the action mainly occurs at night-time. Swinton stated after the film’s release: “Jim is pretty much nocturnal, so the nightscape is pretty much his palette. There’s something about things glowing in the darkness that feels to me really Jim Jarmusch. He’s a rock star.”

The film’s greatest triumph is how it manages to avoid and subvert the clichés surroundings vampire folklore. The v-word is never mentioned, and in a playful twist, it is the humans who are derisively referred to by Adam and Eve as “the zombies”. The two of them are cultural snobs, looking down upon humans as mindless beings who go about their days without a thought to the finer things in life.

It’s a personal take on how Jarmusch himself must feel. A film-maker who has built his hipster reputation as an independent New York artist working outside the mainstream, those like him who devote their time to the counter-culture will always feel isolated from the rest of the world. In Adam and Eve’s tender relationship he has made his warmest film yet, a movie with the message that the price of genius doesn’t have to be loneliness if you find a loving kindred spirit.

Coffee and Cigarettes as a Common Thread

Coffee and Cigarettes is the title of three short films and a 2003 feature film by independent director Jim Jarmusch. The film consists of 11 short stories which share coffee and cigarettes as a common thread, and includes the earlier three films.

 
 

The film is composed of a comic series of short vignettes shot in black and white built on one another to create a cumulative effect, as the characters discuss things such as caffeine popsicles, Paris in the 1920s, and the use of nicotine as an insecticide – all the while sitting around drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes. The theme of the film is absorption in the obsessions, joys, and addictions of life, and there are many common threads between vignettes, such as the Tesla coil, medical knowledge, the suggestion that coffee and cigarettes don’t make for a healthy meal (generally lunch), cousins, The Lees (Cinqué, Joie, and a mention of Spike), delirium, miscommunication, musicians, the similarities between musicianship and medical skill, industrial music, acknowledged fame, and the idea of drinking coffee before sleeping in order to have fast dreams. In each of the segments of the film, the common motif of alternating black and white tiles can be seen in some fashion. The visual use of black and white relates to the theme of interpersonal contrasts, as each vignette features two people who disagree completely yet manage to sit amicably at the same table.

The eleven segments that make up the film are as follows:

Strange to Meet You
This is the original 1986 short Coffee and Cigarettes with Roberto Benigni and Steven Wright having a conversation about coffee and cigarettes.

Twins
Originally the 1989 short Coffee and Cigarettes, Memphis Version – aka Coffee and Cigarettes II – this segment features Joie Lee and Cinqué Lee as the titular twins and Steve Buscemi as the waiter who expounds on his theory on Elvis Presley‘s evil twin. Cinqué Lee also appears in Jack Shows Meg his Tesla Coil. The scene also features a recounting of the urban legend that Elvis Presley made racist comments about Blacks during a magazine interview.

Somewhere in California
Filmed in 1993 as the short Coffee and CigarettesSomewhere in California, and won the Short Film Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. In this segment musicians Iggy Pop and Tom Waits smoke cigarettes to celebrate that they quit smoking, drink some coffee and make awkward conversation.

Those Things’ll Kill Ya
Joseph Rigano and Vinny Vella have a conversation over coffee about the dangers of smoking. The silent Vinny Vella Jr. also appears to beg his father for money, which is given in exchange for affection, which is not provided.

Renée
Renée French (played by herself) drinks coffee while looking through a gun magazine. E. J. Rodríguez plays the waiter, who is eager to be of service. He initially approaches her to serve more coffee, to which she reacts by saying “I had the right color, right temperature, it was just right”. After that, he comes back several times, hesitates, and leaves. He seems intent on striking a conversation with her.

No Problem
Alex Descas and Isaach De Bankolé are a couple of friends who meet and talk over some coffee and cigarettes. Alex has no problems, or so he answers to Isaach’s repeated questioning. At the end of the scene, Alex takes out a pair of dice and rolls three sets of doubles. It could be assumed that Alex Descas has an excessive gambling problem but to him it is not a problem because of what he can roll. Notice he doesn’t roll the dice in front of his friend.

Cousins
Cate Blanchett plays herself and a fictional and non-famous cousin named Shelly, whom she meets over some coffee in the lounge of a hotel. There is no smoking in the lounge, as the waiter informs Shelly (but not until Cate is gone). Shelly tells Cate about her boyfriend, Lee, who is in a band. She describes the music style as hard industrial, similar to the band Iggy describes. Cate tells Shelly she looks forward to meeting “Lou” someday.

Jack Shows Meg His Tesla Coil
Features Jack and Meg White of the band The White Stripes having some coffee and cigarettes. They play themselves, although the scene seems to perpetuate the band’s former pretense that they are indeed siblings. Jack shows Meg his Tesla coil that he says he built himself and waxes intellectual on the achievements of Nikola Tesla. In the beginning, Jack seems upset that Meg doesn’t share his excitement, and it takes Meg some coaxing to get Jack to agree to show Meg his Tesla Coil. He introduces the line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth to be a conductor of acoustical resonance.” Cinqué Lee plays a waiter in this segment. In the end, the coil breaks, and Meg and the Waiter offer suggestions as to why it might be broken. Finally Meg says something that Jack seems to agree to, and he leaves to “go home and check it out”. Meg clinks her coffee cup to produce a ringing noise, pauses, says “Earth is a conductor of acoustical resonance” and clinks her coffee cup to produce the noise again; she looks pensively out into the distance before a cut to black. Early during the segment, Down on the Street by The Stooges is played in the background.

Cousins?
British actors Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan have a conversation over some tea. (Coogan offers Molina a French cigarette, but Molina “saves” his for later.) Molina compliments Coogan’s designer jacket but notes that it will make him hot in the 85 degree Los Angeles heat. Molina works up to presenting his evidence that the two are distant cousins. Coogan rebuffs Molina until Katy Hansz asks Steve Coogan for an autograph, and Coogan won’t give out his phone number to Molina. Then when Alfred Molina gets a call from his friend Spike Jonze, Coogan tries to make amends, but it is too late, and he regrets missing the chance to make the connection. Although they say they are in LA, the segment was actually shot in Brooklyn at Galapagos, Williamsburg.

Delirium
Hip-hop artists (and cousins) GZA and RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan drink naturally caffeine-free herbal tea and have a conversation with the waiter, Bill Murray, about the dangers of caffeine and nicotine. During this conversation GZA makes a reference to how he would drink lots of coffee before going to bed so his dreams would “whip by” similar to the camera-shots at the Indy 500, very similar to the same reference that Steven Wright did in the first segment. Murray requests that GZA and RZA keep his identity secret, while GZA and RZA inform Murray about nontraditional methods to relieve his smoker’s hack.

Champagne
William “Bill” Rice and former Andy Warhol superstar Taylor Mead spend their coffee break having a nostalgic conversation, whilst Janet Baker singing “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen” from Gustav Mahler‘s Rückert-Lieder appears from nowhere. William Rice repeats Jack White’s line, “Nikola Tesla perceived the earth as a conductor of acoustical resonance.” It is possible to interpret the relevance of this line to the constant recurrent themes throughout the seemingly unconnected segments.

À la Recherche du Shoe Perdu

À la recherche du shoe perdu, Andy Warhol, 1955. Blotted line drawing, watercolor and ink on paper. The title is a play on words inspired by Marcel Proust’s novel À la recherche du temps perdu.

 
 
 
 

Ralph Pomeroy (1926-1999) throughout his writing career published essays, monographs, catalogs, three poetry collections and an illustrated book of poems with Andy Warhol entitled “A La Recherche du Shoe Perdu“. One of his books was about painter Theodoros Stamos. His friend, Edward Field, discusses his life in his book: The Man Who Would Marry Susan Sontag and Other Intimate Portraits of the Bohemian Era (2007, University of Wisconsin Press) In an article for the “The Gay & Lesbian Review,” (July–August, 2005, Volume 11 Issue 4), Field notes that the openly gay Pomeroy was accepted by Yaddo 1955, “where he scandalized the sedate arts colony by having an open affair with painter Clifford Wright.